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Letter to the Editor: Stop the City's Community Engagement Campaign

Alexandrian Annabelle Fisher says it's telling that during the first meeting there was no time for Q&A and the project is a "waste of time."

To the Editor,

Having attended the first meeting for Alexandria's new attempt at citizen engagement and dialogue on Nov. 15, my major comment and suggestion is that if Mayor Euille, City Manager Young, our current elected officials and city staff are really serious about this "engagement campaign," then vote to stop this plan ASAP, hopefully before the last council meeting in December.

Then we can really move forward with some real discussions between city staff, mayor/council members and developers if appropriate regarding any major issues of concerns whether they relate to development, transportation issues, etc.

Eliminate the middle guy, i.e., advisory groups, a majority of boards and commissions except those mandated by the Commonwealth of Virginia so that we can negotiate and hopefully reach reasonable and fair solutions. Not everyone will agree nor be happy with the outcomes, but at least citizens who live in various neighborhoods in Alexandria will have direct interaction with city staff and our elected officials. Or, just be honest and transparent and put your "agenda" on the table now.

This first meeting, which cost Alexandria taxpayers $3,000, was to hear Carolyn Lukesmeyer, founder of America Speaks, talk for 40 minutes without presenting new information or insights as it relates to community organization, which is her area of expertise. Her discussion focused on the results of the "poll" and some of her involvement in previous community organizational meetings.

The agenda stated there would be time for Q&A, but this didn't happen. Why not? Only one citizen was involved with this process - Alan Lomax, who has some background in community organization. Why weren't more citizens involved with this process?

The majority of residents in attendance were us regular citizen activists with some new people as well. The so-called "process poll" raised many red flags for me and others as well as it clearly was slanted toward what city staff and our elected officials already know - many Alexandria residents are not happy with our elected leaders and city staff who have not been listening to citizens as we have attempted to verbalize our concerns at city council meetings and at many advisory groups, such as the waterfront redevelopment plan, BRAC-133, Beauregard Small Area Plan and traffic and transportation issues.

We can hear the talking points from Mayor Euille and others that Alexandria residents are happy with the way city government is run as a result of our recent election, which was part of the election for president. However, Alexandria is a Democratic town with a strong Democratic machine and when the election for mayor/council was voted on three years ago by two members who were not re-elected three years ago - Justin Wilson and Tim Lovain - this election became the first time in the history of Alexandria where the election for mayor/council would be on the November ballot for U.S. president.   

Who wrote the specific questions for this "political poll"?  This should have been a survey wherein the questions and comments sent back to city staff by 1,500-plus citizens and business owners would be more objective. It was a waste of time.

So did this "What's Next Alexandria" discussion succeed? NO.

What is important is not the continued process which Alexandria elected officials and senior staff seem to think they need to do, but a change in attitude and behavior from city staff and our elected officials as it relates to "listening and engaging" citizens with reasonable outcomes and solutions early in the game.  Citizens have been listening and attempting to engage. Our elected officials and senior city staff including City Manager Young and his staff have not. This is where the change needs to begin.

Annabelle Fisher
Alexandria

JamesOnThePotomac December 06, 2012 at 12:10 PM
The sheep urrr... I mean the voters of Alexandria have spoken and we now a full slate of crooks urrrr.... I mean Democratic Party members will now look out for the best interests of the local restate developers urrrrr I mean citizens and do what is right for themselves urrrr.... I mean the people of our fair town. Merry Christmas urrr I mean Happy Holidays All
JohnInNova December 06, 2012 at 11:08 PM
This anti-waterfront crowd needs to sit down and shut up! We just gave the Alexandria Government and it's leaders a vote of confidence.... let's move forward!
Haunches December 07, 2012 at 02:50 AM
Shut up, he explained.
Doug December 08, 2012 at 03:21 PM
I can't wait to vote these men and women out of office in November...... oh wait, it's too late for that.
Annabelle Fisher December 09, 2012 at 03:41 AM
From the comments i have read about my letter re: Alexandria's engagement process, i need to clarify that I do not live in Old Town and most references were about the Waterfront. I live in the W. End and not one of our elected officials took any responsibility for BRAC-133, the Beauregard Small Area Plan changes. This "engagement process" and the "poll results" was stuff our elected officials already were aware of along with City Manager Young and his senior staff. As I stated in my letter, if city hall is really serious about engaging all and/or a majority of residents, then stop this madness and get us involved at the beginning of whatever your agenda is. Tell us now what your plans are, eliminate all the unnecessary advisory groups and too many boards/commissions and start involving citizens at the beginning of your agendas.. And for new residents who want to get involved, speak out at council meetings and see if they're listening. That's the real test. Remember, councilmembers and mayor are up for re-election in 3 years and one party rule is not healthy. We need new ideas and solutions from elected officials no matter their party affiliation, and a city council that will show some back bone and vote for what they believe is best for alexandria residents. We are not all going to agree, but this engagement process is a waste of time and city hall knows that. Be honest and transparent with all Alexandria residents NOW. annabelle fisher

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